PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Like the tornado that whipped around Dorothy’s house in the “Wizard of Oz,” the box office at the 99W Drive-in theater was also taken for a spin Friday after a driver crashed into it and knocked it off its foundation.
The building is 69 years old, a classic example of Googie architecture and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Drive-in owner and manager Brian Francis said it could cost thousands of dollars to repair or replace.
On Friday night, the theater aired back-to-back movies: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Dr. Strange 2.” Francis and his employees were shocked to find the box office damaged at intermission.
“We didn’t hear anything or see anything,” he said.
The building had been knocked to the side of its foundation. The lights wouldn’t turn on, the wiring was yanked apart and the contents inside the building were on the floor.
Police responded to the scene quickly and found pieces of what appeared to be a U-Haul that they believe was involved in the crash. Francis said the production workers who were putting on the shadow cast performance during “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” were driving a U-Haul to transport their gear.
“What they should have done was exited the way that they came in, through the back gate. We use the back gate when vehicles have over an eight-foot clearance,” Francis said.
Instead, they tried to drive under the eight-foot-tall drive-thru roof of the box office, lifting and spinning the building off its base.
Francis said the damage means the business can’t run credit or debit cards at the box office. Moviegoers can still pay with their cards, but they’ll need to drive around to the back of the snack bar to use a card reader. Anyone who hopes to get into the drive-in quickly should plan to bring cash.
Builders have already come out to the site to examine the damage. One builder suggested destroying the old building and constructing a new one, but Francis hopes there’s still a chance the structure can be saved.
“We’d like to have them maybe lift it up, repair it down below at ground level, then put it back down on. You know? Put Frankenstein’s head back on a better body,” he said.
The 99W Drive-in does have liability insurance and Francis is waiting to see what, if anything, will be covered.
Meanwhile, a friend of a 99W Drive-in employee wasted no time in trying to help the small business. He started a GoFundMe account to help support the repairs.
The goal of the GoFundMe was $5,000. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had nearly reached $6,500.
Francis said if there’s extra money after the repairs are made, he plans to use it to cover water bills and to replace fence posts.
He encourages anyone who wants to support the repairs but doesn’t feel comfortable donating to the GoFundMe to attend an upcoming movie and purchase snack bar food.
Fittingly, the drive-in will be showing “The Wizard of Oz” and “Twister” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The box office will open at around 6:30 p.m. and showtime will be at around 7:45 p.m., once it’s dark enough.
“This is our 69th season and we’ll have a fresh, new look at the box office for the 70th next year,” Francis said optimistically.
He said he appreciates all the support he’s received so far.
KOIN 6 News contacted the Newberg Police Department to ask if any suspects have been identified but did not receive a response before publication. The story will be updated if they respond.